John Marshall

U.S. Supreme Court Justice / Jurist

Born: 24 September 1755
Died: 6 July 1835
Birthplace: Fauquier County, Virginia
Best known as: Chief Justice of the United States, 1801-35
John Marshall was the fourth Chief Justice of the United States, appointed in 1801 by President John Adams. In the 34 years that Marshall presided over the Supreme Court, the federal powers of the judicial branch were defined and strengthened, most notably in the 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison, in which Marshall asserted the power of the court to overturn legislation deemed unconstitutional. Marshall grew up in Virginia and practiced law before getting involved in Federalist politics. Adams appointed him to be an envoy to France during the XYZ Affair (1797), then tried to appoint him to the court. Marshall refused and instead served in the House of Representatives (1799) before Adams named him secretary of state (1800) and then Chief Justice (1801). Politically, Marshall was famously at odds with his distant cousin, Thomas Jefferson, especially during the trial of Aaron Burr (1807), when the strength of the court was pitted against the strength of the executive branch. Burr, on trial for treason, was acquitted after Marshall ruled that two witnesses were needed prove the charge. Marshall's long term on the bench occurred at a time when the newly-formed nation was still taking shape, and he is considered one of the most influential jurists in U.S. history.
Extra credit: Marshall, who had been a captain in the Revolutionary War, authored a five-volume biography of George Washington, his commander at Valley Forge.

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